The transition is sudden and complete, from the raucous cobbled streets and persistent vendors to the pepper trees, flower beds, and birdsong of this serene Catholic cloister. The Romanesque Church of St. Anne was built by the Crusaders in 1140, and restored in the 19th century. Its austere and unadorned stone interior and extraordinarily reverberant acoustics make it one of the finest examples of medieval architecture in the country. According to local tradition, the Virgin Mary was born in the grotto over which the church is built, and the church is named after her mother. In the same compound are the excavated Pools of Bethesda, a large public reservoir in use during the 1st century BC and 1st century AD. The New Testament speaks of Jesus miraculously curing a lame man by "a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda" (John 5). The actual bathing pools were the small ones, east of the reservoir, but it was over the big pools that both the Byzantines and the Crusaders built churches, now ruined, to commemorate the miracle. A visit to both sites takes no more than 30 minutes. Wait for one or two pilgrim groups who often test the acoustics in the church with some hymn-singing.
Al-Mujahideen Rd., near Lions' Gate, Jerusalem, n/a, Israel